As is usual for Iranian diplomacy, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei came
out with contradictory remarks on Sunday.
He called Israel “an
illegitimate and bastard regime” and the US “an enemy who smiles,” yet he
defended President Hassan Rouhani’s negotiations with the West from regime
hard-liners opposing the talks, stating, “No one must weaken an official who is
busy with work.”
Khamenei also added that Iran has nothing to lose from
The situation might seem hopeful, since Iran’s
supreme leader has defended his negotiating team. Yet Iran has dragged out the
negotiations for years, without anything to show for it.
Is this time
going to be any different?
It seems that the deal to which Iran would be willing
to agree would not be good enough for Israel.
Prof. David Menashri, an
Iran expert and the president of the College of Law and Business in Ramat Gan,
Israel, told The Jerusalem Post in an interview that “Iran is a country that
responds to pressure, and currently it is under pressure.”
leader decided to support the nuclear negotiations in order to remove the
sanctions, as “for Iran to agree to the suspension of its nuclear program is
easier than changing its attitudes toward the US,” said Menashri, adding that
one reason is that any freeze in their program might be reversible.
if he thinks that Iran would possibly agree to Israel’s demand for a full stop
of its program, he responded that Iran is not even “entertaining this
Monday is the anniversary of the 1979 Iran hostage crisis, where a
group of Iranian students took over the US Embassy. Menashri pointed out that in
preparation for the anniversary, “Death to America” chants were heard already on
Menashri sees the lack of trust and the gap between the parties
as perhaps too large to bridge in such a short time and advises against easing
the sanctions, as long as no actual and significant steps have been taken by
After all, the sanctions are one of the main reasons the Iranians
came to the talks in the first place, he said.
Trita Parsi, the president
of the National Iranian American Council, told the Post that he sees the talks
between the main two players – the US and Iran – as positive.
seems to be a symbiosis between Washington and Tehran right now. Both sides are
successfully pushing back against their internal hawks,” he said, noting that
“Obama is making progress against Congress, and Khamenei is pushing back against
hawks in Tehran.”
Hence, he said, both sides are
Asked about Israel’s stance, Parsi responded that Prime
Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s four conditions “are nonstarters and he knows
Parsi is referring to Netanyahu’s demands that Iran stop all
enrichment and agree to remove all of its enriched uranium as well as closing
down the Fordow nuclear plant and the Arak heavy water reactor, which is using
“But there has been a noticeable toning down from Israel and
from its supporters in Washington,” asserted Parsi, who believes that the deal
currently in the works between US President Barack Obama and Iran “is not based
on zero enrichment” and it “will ultimately be good for Israel as
He went on to add, “Remember, many in Israel were upset about the
chemical deal with Syria, but it is now clear that the outcome was also good for
Michael Rubin, a scholar at the American Enterprise Institute
and a former Pentagon official and the author of the forthcoming book Dancing
with the Devil: The Perils of Engaging Rogue Regimes, disagrees completely with
“The chances that Iran will come in from the cold are between zero
and nil. Obama is going to get rolled like a nun at a Las Vegas poker table,” he
told the Post.
“First of all, let’s not scapegoat Israel for a demand of
zero enrichment. That is what four unanimous or near-unanimous Security Council
resolutions demand of Iran,” argued Rubin. And these resolutions were the end
result of years of Iranian violations of the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear
Weapons (NPT) agreements, he said.
“As for the future of talks, there’s a
lot of wishful thinking going on as diplomats and politicians substitute
advocacy for analysis,” said Rubin, pointing out that while Khamenei speaks
about “heroic flexibility,” it is clear that the regime is signaling “a change
in tactics, not policy.”
In addition, Rubin said, “Kayhan, an Iranian
newspaper whose editor Khamenei appoints and which speaks on the supreme
leader’s behalf, has made clear that confidence building and compromise are
tantamount to treason.”
Iranian officials continue to look at and speak
about the North Korean model for achieving nuclear weapons.
words, “get ready for two steps forward, three steps back,” said
Reuters contributed to this report.
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